Many of today's recording practices have been amassed over the years and passed by word of mouth from studio engineer to studio engineer and musician to musician during countless sessions; they are not etched on tablets of stone for all to read and faithfully follow. If only that were so - it would make advising readers a lot less complicated, and reduce the "Can you tell me how to make a good recording, please?" phone calls to a more sensible duration!
The reason for this is that, when it comes to recording, there is simply no substitute for experimentation and hands-on experience. The panacea that most novice recordists are seeking does not, I'm afraid to say, exist in an easily accessible form, if at all. There is currently no gadget on the market that lets you feed in the base elements of your music, call up a preset, and output a beautifully recorded result.
This does not, however, mean that there is no room in the scheme of things for well meaning advice and practical guidelines - provided such advice is taken to be a flexible framework within which to work, not a rigid set of rules that must not be transgressed at any cost. History recalls that most advances in recording techniques were made by artists and engineers who dared to cross the line, whether by accident or intent, whilst seeking out a new identity for their music and new ways of putting it across to the listener.
The recording world today is in an exaggerated state of flux. The change over to digital recording technology and the increasing application of MIDI in the studio has had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on the way music is made. The knock-on effect of this is that many - but not all - of the 'rule of thumb' techniques recording engineers and producers employ to get their job done are no longer applicable in a modern recording session.
OK, perhaps that's too harsh a statement; let's just say that they are less relevant. For MIDI, in democratising the music-making and recording processes, is changing the very nature and concept of the 'studio' and established recording practice. Its influence has been gradually working its way down the recording chain, and now it's the turn of mixing to benefit from the creative freedom MIDI can offer.
This month's cover feature outlines some established mixing practices, and presents a set of working guidelines for you to follow (or ignore, if it is suitable to do so). It also sheds some light on the application of MIDI technology to the mixing process. As Craig Anderton states in his introduction, these guidelines have been compiled from the author's own experiences. They are techniques that work for him; they may or may not suit the way you work or the music you make. Still, we feel they are of great value to anyone interested in making better recordings, hence their inclusion in this month's issue. Let me know what you think. Read and enjoy.